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Posts tagged Improv warm-ups

Matt Besser has said that the only good warm-up is One-Word Pattern Game. Matt Walsh insists it’s Eights. Wherever you stand on warm-ups, you’re going to do a lot of them in your improv life.

If the thought of doing Big Booty again makes you look for the nearest exit, why not skip a structured warm-up and just talk with your team instead? Not in clusters of two or three, but as a group. This is really important.

Almost all teams have sub-cliques, which are obvious once the team hits the stage and the same two or three go into scenes together who always do.

If you missed rehearsal or don’t see other team members very often, it’s important to stay connected with each other’s lives.

You can stand in a circle outside the theatre or sit in the green room, then take turns saying one thing that happened to you that day or week. It can be good, bad, sad, exciting, or boring. Even the most mundane things can suddenly float to the surface, turning up later in a scene or group game.

It can simply be something you observed. I snapped the photos below from the streetcar. “To-ne Sushi” made me think of “Tony Sushi,” and together with “Cameron House,” struck me as funny names for characters…but your inspiration could be anything. Maybe you went to Queen Video, and that inspires a scene about a store that only sells videos of the rock group Queen.

Sharing anecdotes about your job, your family, your life is one way to get to group mind faster. The most important thing about any warm-up is to loosen you up and get you ready to have fun together.

Go team!

Tony Sushi small

 

Tony Sushi new

Channel your inner Django with this fast and fun ice breaker. Like Knife Throw, it’s great for a group of people who don’t know each other, and helps sharpen awareness and reaction times.

To begin, everyone stands in a circle with one person in the centre.

That person points at someone else in the circle and yells “Draw!”

The person being pointed at must duck down as quickly as possible to avoid being shot. At the same time, the person directly on either side of him has to shoot him while yelling “Bang!”

If the person doesn’t duck in time, he (or she) dies. If they duck down before they are shot, they’re safe.

If the players on either side shoot each other simultaneously, they’re both safe. But if one says “Bang!” after the other, he or she is dead.

If you think you’ve been shot, own the shit out of it and die a dramatic death. It’s not about being Superman, it’s about the fun of accepting whatever happens.*

When only two players remain, they stand back-to-back for a duel to the death. The Coach/Director yells “Draw!” and both players turn and shoot. The quickest on the draw wins.

Oh and by the way: this is one time when it’s OK to mime a “finger gun.”

*(Thanks to Jet Eveleth for this tip.)

Hickock_Tutt_Duel_1867_Harpers_Monthly_Magazine

I started to write about Pattern Game* and asked Cameron for his opinion. Of course, his answer was much more interesting than an explanation of how to do it.

And so, POV was born: Point Of View. People On Video. Party On…Valium?

Stay tuned for more POVs with your favourite improvisers. Click here or below to watch.

*For a detailed description of pattern games, see page 29 of Truth In Comedy.

CameronOnPatternGame

This warm-up is very physical and a lot of fun. It requires a good-sized floor space for maximum efficacy. It also requires an odd number of players.

Begin by walking around the room, imagining you are all ants, walking on the top of a giant graham cracker that’s floating in a glass of milk.

The object is to keep the cracker balanced at all times. In order to do this, players must try to fill the negative spaces between them evenly.

Start by walking slowly at first, then gradually get faster. The Director may coach people “There’s a space! Somebody fill it!” etc., to keep the cracker from tipping over.

When everyone is almost running across the surface of the graham cracker, the Director tells players to partner up.

One person will be left without a partner. The group is then told to move away from that person and look at them.

The Director asks the lone person how they feel. The answer may be “bad,” “lonely,” “left out,” “stupid,” or something along those lines.

The group then runs the exercise again. This time when the Director says “Grab a partner,” people will tend to do so faster, because they don’t want to be left alone.

The third time around, everything will be faster still, and people will practically claw each other to get a partner.

The Take-away:

• We begin to become more aware as the game progresses – there is no phoning it in.

• Despite silly circumstances or rules, we begin to play the game (scene) more seriously and with real emotional attachment, both to the balance of the cracker, and to not being left alone.

• Because we started to feel something real (tired, frustrated, giddy, joy, etc.) during this, we then have to trust we can do the same things on stage if we take the scene and let it affect us.

(Thanks to Greg Hess for his help with this post, and to 500 Clown for the exercise.)

Deceptively simple, this is great for honing listening skills, patience, and building group mind.

Everyone stands in a tight circle, eyes closed. Take a couple of deep breaths to relax, then being counting. The idea is to count to twenty, one person at a time. If two or more people say a number at the same time, the group starts over.

When players first do this exercise the tendency is to rush, saying the numbers as quickly as possible. In fact this just creates tension and works against the point of the exercise, which is to slow down, listen and speak when your gut tells you.

Occasionally you’ll get to twenty the first time, in which case you can high-five each other at your incredible connectedness.

It can also be done with the letters of the alphabet, or counting as high as you dare.

I love this game. It’s as fun to watch as it is to play. The multi-talented Todd Stashwick teaches it to heighten listening with your whole body and engage your primal brain.

To begin, players spread out around the room and close their eyes. Turn out the lights for added darkness.

The Director/Coach chooses a Scorpion by silently tapping him or her on the shoulder. Once a Scorpion has been chosen, everyone begins walking around with their eyes still closed.

When the Scorpion comes in contact with another player, he or she stings them by making a “Zzzzzz!” sound. Once you’ve been stung, open your eyes and stand against the wall. If you see players about to walk into walls or other obstacles, gently guide them back to the centre of the room.

When there are only two people left with their eyes closed, both have the power to sting. Whoever stings the other first, wins.

Photo © the e machine

Hey ladies! (and guys): get funky with this raptastic warm-up.

If you saw The King’s Speech, you’ll recall that Bertie (Colin Firth) stuttered when speaking, but the problem disappeared when he sang. That’s because music uses the right side of the brain, while language is controlled by the left.

The right brain is most definitely your friend in improv. So grab your Adidas and put on your best Brooklyn accent, yo!

To begin, everyone stands in a circle and gets a beatbox going. Once you’ve got a groove, one person sings the first line. It can be anything, for instance:

I made hash brownies and my best friend ate ‘em

The next person follows with a line that rhymes:

He ripped off his shirt like he’s Channing Tatum

…or whatever. Everyone joins in and shouts the last word – in this case, “Tatum!” The idea is to listen and anticipate the rhyme. Sometimes you’ll get it, sometimes you won’t. Who cares? That’s part of the fun.

If you need a primer, you might enjoy the Beasties classic Intergalactic. Ch-check it out:

Just like it sounds.

This is a fun, physical warm-up to help you stretch your muscles and get silly with your fellow players. Reeeeaaaalllllly slow down your moves, for safety, and to exaggerate those punches, elbows, and classic roundhouse kicks to the head.

Last one standing is Chuck Norris.

Photo © Kevin Thom

Why “My Dick?”

Well, not everyone loves warm-ups. In fact some people hate ‘em. But if you’ve moved beyond Clap Focus and Zip Zap Zop, then you might like a little thing called My Dick. Um, maybe I should rephrase that.

Despite the pornographic name, it’s really just a game of one-upmanship.

Everyone on the team stands in a circle. Or a square if there’s only four of you, or a triangle if there’s three… anyhoo. One person starts off by rapping:

My dick, is better than your dick

Your dick, is a ger-i-atric

…or whatever you come up with in the moment that rhymes. The constants are “My dick… (something awesome)” and “Your dick… (something lame).” The next person then tries to heighten and one-up the first rapper. For instance:

My dick, leaves them wanting more

Your dick, looks like Pauly Shore

And so forth. You can rap about your size, shape, prowess with the ladies, prowess with the guys, your member’s taste in automobiles. Whatever. And ladies, if you prefer “My vag,” “My uterus” or even “My brain,” that’s your prerogative.

My favourite rhyme came from improviser savant, Simon Pond:

My dick, owns a lot of property

Your dick, doesn’t own a lot of property

Nailed it.

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